As a fat fashion fiend, outfit inspiration strikes in all kinds of ways. From films (think Jennifer Coolidge in A Cinderella Story) to my Instagram feed (shoutout to Lotte Van Eijk in particular), seeing representation of not just clothing styles I like but how they look on bigger frames has been an essential ingredient in me taking fashion risks and serving up risqué outfits over the years. For others whose internet intake isn’t as framed by fat liberation as mine, #outfitinspo can often be synonymous with thin, white bodies.
Kaylin, a TikTok user who shares plus-size fashion inspo, tells me that growing up, she would always refer to Pinterest for style ideas. That said, a lot of the looks on Pinterest were predominantly shown on thin, white bodies and Kaylin wanted to use her platform as an opportunity "to show other plus-size women that Pinterest is for us too." This video concept – pulling images of outfits modelled on thin women from Pinterest and recreating them on mid-size and plus-size frames – is not Kaylin’s alone. It has turned into a TikTok trend, with large numbers of large women getting involved in showing what different outfits can look like on different bodies.
Brooklyn, who has over 38,000 TikTok followers, explains that she didn’t realise this was a trend when she started recreating Pinterest fashions for her followers. "My inspiration for making these videos came from seeing comments on thin women’s fashion videos along the line of 'I can’t pull this off'," she explains. "Those comments were really getting to me mentally, so I decided to use that as motivation to try out different outfits and prove to these plus-size women – and myself – that we can look good in the same outfits thinner women are wearing."
The notion of feeling 'too fat' to pull off certain looks has been embedded in the psyche of fat people for decades. It feels especially poignant that in researching this trend, one of my first finds was a Pinterest board titled "Outfits I’m Too Fat For". What the creators partaking in this trend hope to achieve is for nobody to feel limited by their body when approaching fashion creatively.
"I remember being a teenager and feeling as though I couldn’t express myself with certain clothes and I would often feel like an outcast to society," says Trinity, who has over 78,000 followers and is the creator of the trend’s most successful video, currently at 837.6k views. "There are children and teenagers that hardly see anyone their size on social media and I feel that if they see someone like them [doing TikToks], they can realise, Oh there are people like me, not feel discouraged to dress to their liking and stop feeling isolated from fashion – and the rest of the world."
Kaylin agrees. "All body types can look good and be trendsetters in fashion and, not to sound cliché, but it’s exciting to think about future generations being exposed to way more body positivity in media because of movements like wearing Pinterest looks on different body types in TikTok videos. That would’ve boosted my confidence at 10 years old tremendously."
As a fat lib veteran who has been writing about fat fashion and body confidence for over seven years, it’s thrilling to watch Gen Z push for better inclusivity on TikTok. It’s reassuring to know that this generation will not allow fat liberation to fall into being a passing trend. Of course, from censorship to toxic comment sections, there are many issues with the platform yet to be resolved. "There are so many hateful comments," laments Brooklyn. "While I’ve trained myself to stop seeing fat as an insult, I can sense someone is using it with negative intentions. It’s still hurtful at times. It’s also hard to get exposure on the app and I find that videos I post where I am dressed in a more revealing or sexy way are often shadowbanned, put under review or even taken down for 'violating community guidelines'. Then I’ll see a video of a thin woman in a far more revealing outfit or even a bikini and just feel hurt because my body is seen as a violation on the platform while theirs is celebrated and pushed out on the For You page."
That said, everyone I spoke to wanted to emphasise that the positives of being plus-size on TikTok far outweigh the negatives. "We are all just so kind to each other and really hype each other up in our posts," Brooklyn enthuses. "I get so many comments from people saying we share similar or even the exact same body type and that my videos make them feel confident and seen. It makes me proud that I am able to do that for others."
Representation is, has and always will be important. Representation is revolutionary. Whether it’s as simple as showing what a tennis skirt looks like on a size 22 rather than a size 10, or analysing the intricacies of thin privilege, TikTok creators are finding more ways to push for progress and inviting wider audiences to learn and call for change with them. By recreating Pinterest outfits and providing representation of many different kinds of bodies, they’re helping their peers to find the beauty in being plus-size – regardless of anything the comment section has to say.